Coalition negotiations between Pakistan’s two major family-controlled political parties have hit a snag as they struggle to reach an agreement on who should become the prime minister. The Sharif and Bhutto families, seeking to form a coalition to counter jailed ex-leader Imran Khan, are at an impasse over their preferred candidates for the top job.
Sherry Rehman, a senior leader of Bilawal Bhutto Zardari’s Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP), announced that committees would be formed to “negotiate with other political parties,” indicating a potential delay in the formation of a government. The day before, President of Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) Shehbaz Sharif mentioned an “agreement in principle” to save the country from political instability.
Negotiations between the Sharifs and Bhuttos have been ongoing after Imran Khan’s candidates, running independently, secured the most seats but fell short of a majority. While specific details of the discussions remain undisclosed, PML-N is pushing for either Nawaz or his brother, Shehbaz, to lead the government, while PPP prefers Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, emphasizing his fresh perspective in a country where a significant majority is under 30.
A coalition between the two parties would counter Khan’s candidates, highlighting the former cricket star’s enduring popularity and public dissatisfaction with the political status quo. Khan’s party alleges election irregularities, leading to scattered protests.
Investors are concerned about the delay in government formation, adding to the uncertainty in an economy grappling with challenges such as high inflation and the expiration of a nine-month IMF bailout program in March. Pakistan’s benchmark stock index fell 2.8% on Monday after a 1.8% drop on Friday.